Every year as is tradition, I do my prediction for the upcoming year. I think that 2014 was actually my worst track record so far. Anyone wants to score himself well on this kind of test, but I promise to be fair. So, before I show my 2015 list, let me do my best to score my picks from 2014. My comments will be in purple.
I have a wide, white squeegee* in my shower. Occasionally, although not often enough for me to avoid feeling guilty, I will remember to use this squeegee to get the water off of my shower tiles after bathing. I suppose that this is intended to keep the shower clean and mildew free, but that isn’t really why I have the squeegee at all.
My grandfather had a similar squeegee in his shower when I was a kid. The shower was small, but had large mint green tiles. Nothing else matched that color in the bathroom. I always wondered if he had the shower done all in green as some secret surprise in an otherwise bland earth-toned bathroom. People would use the restroom and never know the wonderful secret that lurked hidden behind that frosted glass door. But I suppose in reality, the shower had always been that color and was just not updated some time before my birth when the bathroom had been remodeled.
I remember when I was a child, old enough to not only take baths but still young enough to be instructed on shower basics, my Granddad told me the importance of the squeegee, and showed me how to use it. He used meticulously placed downward strokes, with even pressure through the whole motion with the care that my grandfather used in almost everything he did. It made that beautiful shhthwhack sound that every squeegee makes. It is a pleasing sound, maybe just to me, but I suspect everyone likes it.
That is why I always have had one in my shower, I suppose. All because my little brain tape recorder was fed the instruction that after a shower the tile must be dried, and that every shower must contain a squeegee. When I am in a hotel I often feel a little bit robbed when I don’t see one in the shower. I don’t know why. It is obviously the maid’s job to clean it, and that is far more often than anyone’s home shower would get any such attention at all.
I got to thinking about this kind of thing recently while visiting a really odd church on some anonymous Sunday morning. Some of the people were friendly enough, but the service had a lot of weird things that nobody explained. They weren’t weird in a cultish way, but in some cultural expressions that they didn’t bother explaining. It was like celebrating Christmas with a family other than your own, and at dinner they serve Hot Pockets. Even though it seems really odd, but you feel too shy to ask.
Anyway, during the church service I saw a mid-twenties aged man in the front row. He had one son with him, probably about 5 years old. The man got down on his knees in worship and his son knelt quickly down next to him. The man raised one hand in worship then two, and the son followed suit each time. The child kept his head pointed toward his dad the whole time so that he wouldn’t miss even some small motion.
He was learning how to worship, and some day 30 years from now, he’ll be in the front row of the church on his knees and he won’t know why, other than that this is the best way to worship God. It will be stuck in his little recorder, part of his functional DNA, and he also won’t understand why some other dude only worships in the back bobbing his head.
There is this bird in Australia called the Lyrebird. It is different than the birds that congregate outside my window and wake me up in the morning. Each spring morning I hear the chip-chirp-cheeee of the Warblers repeatedly until I either submit to the headache or wake up and shower. But that is the only song that they know. They do it repeatedly throughout their lives. They are programmed to sing that.
But the Lyrebird doesn’t do things that way. He takes the sounds of other birds in his forest and repeats them, weaving them all into his own little song. He mimics them perfectly. If he hears a chain saw or a camera, he does those sounds too. You’d swear it was the real thing. All these sounds put together into a song. It is the life of the forest in one medley-remix. The camera and chainsaw aren’t that melodious by themselves, but the Lyrebird makes it melodious.
I hope I’m kind of like that Lyrebird. When I swim I think about the time as a child that my dad explained to me how sound travels faster in water than in air. When I cook I repeat actions I learned long ago from my mom and grandma. And there is a squeegee in my shower. I want to believe it is my beautiful song with my own spin on the melody. I don’t want to be just a Warbler, repeating the same thing endlessly. I think we are pretty inventive as people, but in a beautiful way, we’re often just repeating the forest sounds of our youth. -Ryan
I worked in management for Sears throughout college. It was a good job that treated me well and gave me a great opportunity to build a business management resume that has benefited me throughout my whole adult life. But that was a very different Sears that I have seen over the last 10 years.
Last week, I was on lunch and decided to pull up a YouTube video of Chris Tomlin (a Christian worship music artist) singing a song I’d hurt at church the weekend prior. As most of us know, YouTube regularly plays videos of sponsored content (a.k.a ads) before your chosen video. It is part of the monetization that Google brings to all of its products. When a company pays for an ad to run, they specify all of the criteria that will determine who sees the video. This includes thing like the geographic location of the watcher, the viewer’s history, and the specific thing searched for, as well as everything in between. I’m simplifying the process, but it is nearly infinitely customizable, ensuring that the only people who see your video are the exact people you want to see it.
So, I search for Chris Tomlin and the title of the worship song (I don’t remember right now exactly which song it was) and I click on the video. Before my video starts to play, this is the ad I see (feel free not to watch the whole thing):
I skipped the ad when it gave me a chance and watched my worship video, but the more I thought about it the more upset I became. I can’t think of a YouTube history on my account that would have been pertinent or anything else that makes sense…unless either they were putting that out to everyone, or they were specifically targeting people watching worship videos.
So, I took to Twitter, incredulous that Sears would be so insensitive. The screenshot from my Tweet, and Sears’ response not long after, are below.
It is 2014, know. I am not surprised by a company supporting homosexual marriage. I don’t like it, but I know it happens. I don’t support the homosexual mafia attacking companies like Chik-fil-a simply because their CEO said that he believes a marriage is between a man and a woman. But most of all, I can’t support the incredible rudeness of a company deliberately attacking the morality of Christians in this way. Whether their Tweet to me was an automatic response to mine or not, it doesn’t matter.
I’m not one to start a boycott and get worked up over anything secular. I think that secular complies not guided by Christians will not act Christian. However, companies that deliberately attack Christians is another story altogether.
You know why they do it? They do it because they know that they will insult us and treat us disrespectfully in whatever ways they choose, and we will buy their products just the same. We might post a Facebook complaint and feel like we accomplished something, but as soon as the next sale comes along, we will open up our wallets again.
For me, it stops here. I have drawn a line in the sand. I have a lot of Craftsman tools and a Sears credit card. I’m canceling the card and have bought my last tool from them.
Incidentally, if you want the story behind the video (which I actually haven’t seen in its entirety), Sears sponsored a float in the recent Chicago homosexual parade. On that float they had 4 homosexual couples getting “married” and this video was celebrating that.
Next time you buy a Sears product, know that is where some of your money is going. If you support that, then great. If you don’t, you are supporting it anyway with your money.
This week I read about how Rick Perry had created controversy in California by equating homosexuality with alcoholism. People were irate. The problem is, he didn’t do that at all. You can see and hear the comments here. He was pointing out that people have a choice in their behavior whether or not their genetics predetermine their outcome. His statement was obvious, and people getting irate about it just want to be irate because they don’t like anything Rick Perry says, and particularly anything that a Christian would say about homosexuality.
But that isn’t what the headline says, is it? …Another outright lie.
But this gets me to the heart of the matter. The division is not within the Republican Party. Recent polling shows that Americans are farther to the Right and Left than they have ever been and with increasing unity.
However, there is something that has become very fractured. Americans are turning on President Obama in record numbers. Recent data shows that we believe Obama is a worse leader, more dishonest, and more incapable than ever before. The media are turning on him, as many recent encounters (1, 2, 3, 4) with the administration’s Press Secretary have shown.
Cracks have appeared through the savior’s armor, and it is apparent to all. People feel like the country is crumbling and they’re desperate. The Left is realizing that the solution that they believed in is actually our downfall. They wanted government healthcare. It is a disaster. Even polling of Democrats shows this. The huge VA scandal is an in-your-face example of what happens when our government legislates healthcare. The people aren’t dumb enough to miss that.
The crisis from Benghazi is showing how little the administration cares about its own people and has tried to cover up their own failures. The media may have tried to cover it all up as well, but a few of them still have some of their consciences un-seared. I don’t think they’ve forgotten. Even the IRS persecuting Conservative groups has gotten so ridiculous that the media can’t even ignore it anymore (they “lost” 2 years of emails?—-Come on!)
Years ago, Joe Biden (speaking for the President) said that success in Iraq would be the administration’s key achievement. This has been a narrative that they have repeated many times, even into last week. Now, as the situation in Iraq deteriorates without American forces there, perhaps creating one of the most dangerous situations the world has seen in generations, the press is attacking the administration. Even more Liberal reporters are attacking the President over this.
It is not a difficult time to be a Republican. It is a difficult time to be an American, for sure. Our republic has been destroyed by within from years of political forces that foment ideas counter to those of liberty, and through 6 years of Obama “fundamentally changing this country.” The cracks in the fabric of America that these forces have created are starting to show very visibly. Those who supported and gave voice to these movements are now realizing this and are starting to rebel. They are fractured. The Republicans are not. -Ryan
I’ve been watching and reading the news with a different eye recently. It really started a couple weeks ago during the Texas State Republican Convention, at which I was again a delegate this year. During the convention, I sat through caucuses and meetings as well as the proceedings on the convention floor.
A convention is an exciting and busy event, and there is always positioning and debating. That is the point of the whole thing. When delegates from a whole state get together to pick one document that will guide all of what their collective will is going to be concentrated on over the next 2 years, there should be considerable debate.
After the convention each night, I would go home and absorb the day’s news. I consistently heard throughout the weekend about how the split Republican Party was arguing over issues of homosexuality, marijuana, and immigration. There were Republicans protesting, and the organization was undoing itself.
I consistently wondered if perhaps the news media were accidentally at a different convention, or if possibly I was the one attending a different convention entirely. I checked. I was definitely at the right place. None of what the news was reporting was happening at all.
While platform positions regarding homosexuality-related issues were debated in the committee meetings I’m sure, the body of delegates didn’t discuss it even one time. Let me rephrase that in case you missed it: we didn’t talk about homosexuality even once…not one time…not even in passing…it wasn’t an issue. Yes, the platform does address “reparative therapy.” Anyone who has paid attention to the news knows this is only addressing the push for making it illegal to offer counseling available to those who do not wish to live as practicing homosexuals. This has happened in California already. The platform position only addresses this situation. This part of the platform was not discussed at all, or even voted on separately (lest you think I’m cheating in my prior statements).
Outside of the building on the first night were somewhere between 8 and 12 people with pro-homosexual marriage signs. They were not members of the convention. They were exceedingly kind, and it seemed everyone was kind to them. I firmly support anyone’s right to protest in this way. They were on the evening news and on radio. They must have had great pre-protest press releases for a dozen people to get so much media coverage.
Marijuana was discussed, and any pro-legalization efforts were soundly defeated by the body. There was no mass demonstration. There were however, a lot of pro-pot people who only showed up as delegates prior to that vote and then left shortly afterward. Four of them were in my row. I had never seen them before. One of them leaned over to his friend during the vote and said, “That just shows how dumb these Republicans are.” They were clearly not Republicans, and they were only there to try and create chaos. They failed. But they did have their NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) car out front, made to look like a cop car, but with big pot leaves on it. I have always found it amusing that the organization to legalize pot uses an acronym that proposes an alternate spelling of “normal.”
Immigration was slightly contentious, for about 45 minutes or so. But in reality, there was little difference in the ideas of the two vying groups. In fact, the only real discrepancy was that the more Conservative of the groups thought that if securing the border was allowed to be in the same legislative package as other immigration matters it would end up never being enacted. Other than that, almost everyone was in agreement. In the end, a compromise was made, smashing the two plans into one. Everyone left unified. There were no mean words, and no fighting.
But this is the opposite of everything we’ve read, isn’t it? Not in the “Liberal spin on reality” way, but just complete lies. -Ryan
A child, a knife, yet another life and another cut down
I heard it on the news this morning
In the car
on the way
—a news report.
Some child had gone to school and in the place where other children learn and play
he had done the unspeakable
And now there are kids in stretchers
and hospital rooms
Life cut short at the end of an angry knife
Innocence ended with a sharp pain
that doesn’t end as quickly as a wound will heal
Now come the questions
The endless clacking of TV jaws
plastic as the sets from which they’re watched
and maybe great law-makers will all shake hands
And do their canned jams from grandstands
Only using the tragedy to prove their existence justified
And just do something
“If only one child…”
“Please we must…”
“But this would’ve saved”
And a million “why’s”
Not the kind that the saddened families will ask
But a “why” that ends in a “why” or a lie
In the end
It’s just for cameras
Another law may pass
or it won’t
for the truth is
The truth. If it matters to such as these
That these great tragedies
are what they are—evil.
There is no Why other than a troubled kid
Some dysfunction or anger, or social, or blah-blah
He was one of us—although he wasn’t
at least, we’ll say
It wasn’t the knife
or the gun
or the bomb
or the fist, or bat, or rock
That–the plastic jaws leave unsaid
For then we’d have to face the evil in us
the evil we let be and grow and fester
We would stare into the mirror
and our evil would stare back at us
The day after I graduated High School, I went to the mission field. During my first summer as a missionary, we had long worship and prayer sessions every evening before our concert. At first I resented these times. They seemed long and boring. I had little reason to resent them. It was felt more than thought, and it was probably spiritual in nature, although I did fixate on the fact that we sang worship songs that I didn’t really know. Therefore, I decided that they must also be worship songs that were not as good as the ones I knew.
But on that mission trip I learned how to worship. I discovered that worship was a skill that came naturally to humans, but that I (like probably most people) had become so used to worship primarily myself and I had to fix that before I could understand how to worship God.
I took a Greyhound bus that August from Butte, Montana to Tacoma, Washington in order to start my freshman year of college. There, I joined the university Christian club, who had weekly worship sessions. I fought with all I had to not resent those times, because now the songs were different than the ones I’d learned as a missionary.
I struggled passionately to keep my intimacy with God. I worshipped with them, learning new songs, but now I had learned how to worship, and I could worship anywhere. I learned the joy of worshipping alone. Some nights I would sneak away to the piano practice rooms in the music building. They were open 24/7. I could sit in a small empty room with a closet and worship by myself.
I would play what little I could, and always faced a resistance at first. But I would press through that, and suddenly I would come to a song that would spark an emotion or a certain heart-string and the tears would flow. All that was me would seem to melt away as I connected with God and felt His presence. That feeling is indescribable really, but all I can say is that it is better. List any good adjective you can think of, and that feeling is better. It was water to my own soul.
It has been a while since I’ve felt that, I must admit. I have taken times worshipping on my own and have even had moments of intimacy, but not like that.
It is my lunch break now, and earlier this morning I was listening to my worship mix from my hard drive as I worked. Tim Hughes He’s Got the Whole Worship in His Hands started playing
When all around is fading
And Nothing seems to last
Each day is filled with Sorrow
Still I know with all my heart
He’s got the whole world in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands
I’ll fear no evil, for you are with me
Srong to deliver, mighty to save
He’s got the whole world in His hands
Lately, each day is not filled with sorrow and I feel like I am losing nothing, particularly. I am doing quite well. And yet the tears started to fall as I sang along. All I can describe, the best I can do, is that His having all of it in His hands hit me in a new way. My sin, my joys, the things that I have given up, and the things the enemy has stolen from me, the moments of triumph, and those things I can never undo…all of it, in His hands.
I have nothing to fear. You are with me. You’ve got it all in Your hands. And here I am, better.
The other day I got one of those junk mail pieces offering me “up to” $8,800 for my old Honda Accord. It was in fake handwriting font, with FINAL NOTICE in Stencil font on the bottom, complete with slight Gaussian blur and acid wash to make it look like someone used a red ink rubber stamp to let me know that it was that serious. Apparently, they are really in need of 9 year old Honda Accords. They are at the hight of demand. If you go in say, “I want a brand new Pilot Premium,” they will say, “Why would you want that, when you could drive a 2005 used Accord?”
The best part was the fake check and stub it was all printed on. It had a realistic-looking customer ID # and Account number section below a pretend perforation line, and a check at the top. Where you would write the amount tendered on the check was written “up to $8,800.”† It was all signed by someone named Yuni Chen.
Realizing it has been several years since my infamous “lost pet” incident, I thought it was time to have some fun. So I wrote Yuni a letter in response. I have included it below.
It is stamped and ready to mail. -Ryan
There are times I’ve found myself in moments so surreal that it felt like my experiences were happening remotely, far away from me. I think everyone has encountered that feeling before, when you seem to be a bystander to your own existence, a fly on the wall watching yourself go through something.
Often, these times seem be connected to some great tragedy or hardship. It is then, when your stomach seems to fall out, like the first great drop of a rollercoaster, or that tingly swing set feeling. Sweat starts beading from a clammy forehead and your throat goes dry. But even as you are experiencing this, the camera shifts perspective and in your mind’s eye you are now watching as a spectator. I had a moment like this just a week or so ago, not filled with terror but surreal in its own right.
I visited my grandma, my father’s mother, in a convalescent home. Or maybe it was a rest home…I don’t quite know if there is a difference, or if it matters what we call those places where people end up getting stored as their candles flicker out. She is by no means ignored the way many people are there. My relatives, who just aren’t able to provide the degree of care that a Parkinson’s patient requires, visit Grandma Nina almost daily.
I’ve watched many of my older relatives pass away, some suddenly and some ever so slowly. My Aunt Ruby gradually disappeared into the couch over a period of years as the same disease that is taking my grandma gnawed at her body. I am still not sure which kind of death seems nobler, disappearing overnight or fighting with every breath. I think the quick version has more appeal to me. I’d rather remember Aunt Ruby playing her organ or making me a sandwich, than be stuck with the picture that is now her predominant profile in my mind. I hope that others remember me at my best someday, as well.
But with my grandma there in that home I don’t have that choice. I have very little memory of her at all outside of the other day. For reasons I won’t discuss here, I haven’t talked to her since early childhood. When I think back, there are only snippets in my mind of her or my paternal grandpa. It may be sad, but it is the truth, and I have chosen not to try to deconstruct the reasons why things were the way they were—instead to deal with things as they are now.
So there I sat, with a virtual stranger in that place, talking about the weather and birds, and a tree that was blooming nearby. And I was outside of myself, very far away but wanting to be close…wanting memories that just aren’t there. And wishing that there was something else, anything I could talk about… something that had more meaning.
In the end as I left, she gave me a long slow look—and maybe I returned that gaze, I don’t know. Her eyes said that she realized she didn’t know if we’d meet again, and that she also wished there was more to talk about than the weather and the birds. I think maybe, despite me being outside of myself, that presence, us both in that moment was itself just enough. —Ryan